The Endless Summer: Fischbach's Foray into Digital
While New York City’s renowned Fischbach Gallery may have closed its physical doors for the season, its online exhibition The Endless Summer continues to serve up an aestival e-feast for hungry eyes. “After 50 plus years, the Fischbach Gallery became a virtual reality online exhibition gallery,” says director Lawrence DiCarlo of this foray into the digital realm. “The Endless Summer is our current contribution.”
Even through the medium of a computer screen, when viewing the colorful, evocative works—ranging from Denise Mickilowski’s breathtakingly saturated 3 Hydrangeas (2012), to Michiyo Fukushima’s soft architectural focus in Sunset on 57th Street (2008), to John Laub’s impressionistic Laub, Quitsa, Dock, and Big Boat (1998)—one can’t help but fall into a cheerful relaxation. Greens, blues and golds feature prominently throughout the selected works, many of which belie their creators’ fascination with the power of light and shadow (particularly during the afternoon and early evening), conjuring a particular, distinctive sensation.
One can nearly feel the late afternoon breeze flowing in through Alice Dalton Brown’s Quiet Window (2008). Brown is known for her masterful, almost surreal depictions of light reflecting off bodies of water, as well as for her recurring use of sheer draperies—which demarcate the angular, controlled world of the indoors from the textured, disorderly world of nature. “I still like to compose my images with these contrasts, which I think have symbolic implications as well as visual interest and compositional strength,” she writes. This contrast is present in Quiet Window, which was inspired by a real-life moment in the home of a friend. “The curtain transitions the two spaces, bringing the warmth and freedom of this landscape into the quiet room.”
Though the fluttering drapes are true to life, the proximity of the three different landscapes is not. Brown intentionally omitted the existing storm windows and green foliage in favor of the flowers and pond, which, in turn, were taken from two completely different locations. “I had a photo of a few pink/purple flowers and invented enough of them to fill the area needed. The water view is from studies I made at an earlier time and at a different site.” This juxtaposition of three scenes that don’t normally occur together—the flowerbed doesn’t look like it truly ‘belongs’ with the pond, which doesn’t look like it truly ‘belongs’ outside the country home window—adds a rather heavenly sensibility to the piece; art improving upon reality rather than mimicking it. “It’s meant to be a bit unreal,” says Brown.
Plein-air painter Alexandra Tyng also frequently depicts fluttering linens in her work, though both intention and effect are quite different. Tyng’s Drying Wind (2007) is very much grounded in reality, immediately catapulting the viewer into a quintessential New England summer. “The whipping and flapping of the laundry on the clothesline evoked a thought of sailing on Penobscot Bay,” she writes. Ms. Tyng, a self-taught artist with an academic background in art history, frequently eschews posed figures and scenery in favor of more informal, slice-of-life subject matter. "When I paint outdoors I don't arrange things; I tend to walk around until I happen upon a naturally pleasing arrangement of elements." This view of the back of a house—replete with the unceremonious elements of life, including the clothesline, abandoned wheelbarrow, single white chair and stockpiled gas tanks—lends a charmingly unassuming quality to Drying Wind, as if one has stumbled into a neighbor’s backyard by accident but decided to linger for a minute to observe, relishing in the warm, salty zephyr. "That space is like a passageway, with a pleasant feeling of partial enclosure," explains Tyng. "Architecture is one of my favorite things to paint, and I'm just as attracted to the spaces between buildings as I am to the shapes of the actual buildings."
Another Maine-set painting—one that is particularly distinctive beside its more realist neighbors in the exhibition—is Helen Berggruen’s Maine Coast (Tom Lieber’s Place) (2013). Depicting the contained disarray of a dining room table overlooking the coastal waterway, Berggruen’s curling brushstrokes and sloped, wriggling outlines immediately call to mind Van Gogh and the Post-Impressionist period, by which her oeuvre is heavily inspired. Like many works of that time, the image is still and figureless yet nonetheless very alive; the corn appears to be swimming across the table, the clouds swirling and conspiring in the background, perhaps brewing up a seasonal storm. As is befitting a summer-themed exhibition, only a handful of the paintings are set indoors, and Maine Coast is the only one among them that appears to be lit more from within than without (or so the shadow behind the chair and the overall lightbulb-tonality of the space would suggest).
On the opposite end of the spectrum lies Denise Mickilowski’s striking 3 Hydrangeas (2012), rendered in her characteristic hyper-relief. “I feel having too many colors distracts the viewer,” she claims. Indeed, this purity is very refreshing amidst the sea of colors in the rest of the exhibition, and there is something deeply gratifying in the simple duality of the blueish-purple and green, both heavily saturated to the point of glowing. The blueish-purple shades might as well be labelled “hydrangea,” so precisely do they evoke the species’ unique appeal. If there were ever a painter who utilized color to capture the very essence of a flower (or fruit, as is equally often the case), it is Mickilowski. Set upon an old worn wagon she fashioned into shelving, her three hydrangeas, each in the perfect apex of bloom, are the Platonic ideal of Hydrangea—of which “real” instances are merely a diluted imitation.
Furthermore, keeping the color more or less the same between the wooden shelf, the clay pot and the leaves of the flowers allows Mickilowski to highlight the textural differences between these items—like an artistic application of the scientific method, in which only one variable is changed at a time. The viewer gets the sense that her fingers would catch a splinter or two if she ran a hand along the fraying shelf; while, in contrast, the juicy, shiny leaves are almost begging to be touched.
The Endless Summer is available online from May 12 through August 31, 2016. The Fischbach Gallery website provides additional works by the artists in the exhibition, along with biographical information and previous exhibition images.
Note: All quotes taken from direct email conversations between the artists and author or from Fischbach Gallery's press release for The Endless Summer.